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As Guatemala Ends CICIG Bachelet Speaks While UN Guterres Still Banning Inner City Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR Letter PFT Q&A

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 – Back on 25 August 2017 when Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales came to New York to meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on August 25, media mostly Spanish and Inner City Press set up a stakeout in the UN Secretariat lobby, to afterward hear his views on Ivan Velasquez and the future of the CICIG. The meeting began at 5 pm, but it was well after 6 pm when Guterres came down to his waiting car and driver. Inner City Press asked, Que pasa con la CICIG? But Guterres merely waved. Moments later his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who declined to answer or even confirm receipt of written questions from Inner City Press, issued a canned read-out which "reiterated his confidence in Commissioner Ivan Velásquez.” But what has been the follow up? Guterres had Inner City Press roughed up on June 22 and July 3 and banned since then, amid Press questions about his corruption. Now on September 4, this from new Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, this: "We are concerned that Guatemala’s decision not to renew the mandate of the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity, which expires on 3 September 2019, may represent a significant setback in the still much-needed work to investigate, prosecute and ultimately dismantle the criminal networks that continue to operate in Guatemala.
Over the past 10 years, the Commission, known by its Spanish initials as CICIG, has worked hand in hand with the Guatemalan justice system to make important strides in the fight against impunity and corruption in the country.
We urge the Government to ensure that the announced transfer of CICIG’s powers to national institutions does not result in a weakening of ongoing and future corruption probes. We note also that in recent days, police have reportedly questioned several prominent human rights defenders, raising concerns regarding possible intimidation tactics against dissident voices.   Our Guatemala office will continue to monitor this situation closely.The UN Human Rights Office reiterates its commitment to cooperate with the State and civil society on strengthening human rights and the rule of law in Guatemala."
What and how will Bachelet do on this file, and on the UN's own censorship. We'll see - two requests have been made to her and her team, on both human rights including in Cameroon and relatedly on UN censorship. Another failure under Guterres. But he's focused on using public money to travel to Lisbon, now to China, and on roughing up and banning the Press which asks. On May 10, 2018, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  wanted to ask you, there's at least three senators and one representative in Washington that are…  have written to put a hold on $6 million to be paid to CICIG, and their reason for it is what they say is a lack of due process, that instances have come up where Mr. Velásquez has essentially bullied defendants in one case, they say, on behalf of a Russian bank.

And so I'm wondering, when you… when you issue these expressions of support, is it something that… that the Secretary-General has actually looked at these cases and said…

Spokesman:  CICIG operates under established rules through an agreement between the UN and the Government of Guatemala.  There are all sorts of built-in mechanisms.  CICIG has received broad support from Member States, and we hope that continues." On 21 March 2018 when Inner City Press asked about Guatemala removing 11 police investigators from the CICIG, Guterres' spokesman didn't know about it, and did not comment by the end of the day six hours later. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press:  I know that the Secretary-General has spoken in the past about CICIG [the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala] in Guatemala.  And now the Government there has removed 11 of its police investigators that were working with it, and Ivan Velásquez says this is clearly an attempt to undermine the CICIG.  So I was… do you have any…

Spokesman:  I'll check… check the reports.  The Secretary-General firmly stands behind the work of the Commission and the Commissioner.." But six hours later, nothing. Back on August 27, 2017 after not speaking at or even coming to the waiting stakeout at the UN, Morales issued a video, on Twitter, declaring Valasquez persona non grata. Here. Guterres is with sheikhs in Kuwait; Inner City Press asked his spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "This is a Press request on deadline for the UN's / Secretary General's response to this, from Jimmy Morales of Guatemala. Also please explain why UN Photo still does not have any photo of the Morales / SG photo op online, and state where Yemen envoy IOCA is, if he is not in Kuwait (didn't see him in the photo). Inner City Press has more questions and will be submitting them for responses, while noting that Friday's question was not even acknowledged, much less answered. Please explain." He replied, "Statement coming shortly." Then, a tweet from Jeffrey Feltman's DPA: ".@UN Secretary-General shocked at announcement that Guatemala's President has declared @Ivan_Velasquez_ persona non grata." Shocked implies that Morales didn't raise this possibility in their long meeting on Friday. More to follow.

 More to come.


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